Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Peanut! Beans!

from w
In Fiji at the bus stops you always see boys and men selling hot peas, peanuts, and snacks. Here's a story from rags to riches of a boy who was one of these bean sellers in Labasa.

From the Fiji Times:
The street-smart bean seller who became a doctor
GERALDINE PANAPASA Sunday, April 13, 2008

HE may not have had a decent pair of shoes growing up but he sure had a heart for those who are disadvantaged in society. Doctor Abdul Wahid Khan knows what it is like to struggle in life. He was born in 1954 of a Muslim father and Hindu mother and grew up at Nasea in Labasa. His father, Abdul Sattar, owned a bus company which had a contract to transport passengers for Fiji Airways.

His mother, Audh Raji, was a simple housewife but an excellent cook and exceptional seamstress.

For Dr Khan, having a Muslim father and a Hindu mother made him appreciate his religious heritage. His father left when he was 10 years old and much of his life growing up was centred on the struggles his mother went through to provide for all of them. He said there were times when he and his elder brother used to sell peas to drunkards to earn money to help their family make ends meet. "When my father left, my mother was the only one to look after us. She worked very hard to put us through school and give us the best possible education. At one point in time, some people wanted to adopt us because they thought my mother could not look after us but she said no way'.

"Despite her struggle, our mother managed to send us to school which she said was the most important thing for us.

"I remember the times when we had to have tea and cassava. We walked to school because we did not have any bus fare. My mother sewed at home and was a cook at a restaurant called Ram Samy. We used to hang out there most of the time and eventually we got to know Ram Samy's children. Growing up that time was hard but at the same time, interesting with a lot of adventures.

He remembers the many times he and his friends would go and catch kuka in the dogo patch which is now Subrail Park. Even when he was in secondary school, Dr Khan had to sell bean to supplement the family income. He said they did not have much time to study but they were blessed with intelligence. Dr Khan said selling on the streets taught him a lot about different kinds of people and he saw many things which broadened his horizon.

"My brother and I used to sell peas and mixed beans.

"We had our own spot and mine was at Gibson's hotel. I sold bean to a lot of people drinking beer and most of the time they would give me a tip. We were too young to do these things but we did it anyway and we didn't question it. We just did what we were told. Selling on the streets was rough and eventually it made me become street-wise. I was able to identify all sorts of people, good and bad. When I was young, I was very shy, so in a way, selling on the streets enabled me to interact with people."

He remembers the time when someone gave him 10 shillings to meet him behind a barn near Morris Hedstrom. He was nine that time but he knew instantly the person had a bad intention so he just ran off with the money. Doing business on the streets made him street-smart and wise to the ways of the world.

It was this kind of exposure that enabled Dr Khan to handle life in the big world with ease.

ABDUL Wahid Khan has a family of doctors his wife Satya and their son Yashal are dentists.

Dr Khan married Satya in 1978 soon after they graduated from medical school.

He said his involvement with medical politics was a hindrance to family life but maintains that the demands of his wife's profession and his own made him tackled things in life with simple understanding.

A perfectionist, Dr Khan believes children should appreciate and value and treasure their parents as long as they are alive because you have one one father and mother.
"My wife and I come home together after a day's work. Our son is a dentist in Otago. We understand the hectic schedules and involvement of our work and I am proud to say that my wife has been my inspiration and my life.

"When we were posted to the rural areas, my wife and I always felt like doing something for the villagers. People appreciated our work and it was satisfying for us. Some years ago we started an outreach program where we would pack medical supplies and visit different rural areas once a month. We did this from 1999 to 2006 and in between we got caught up with our own busy work schedule.

"We have visited people and villages in remote places up the Navua river such as Naqelewai, Navunikabi and other isolated settlements and homesteads in the interior.

"It was something we liked to do but first we had to make time for our trips."

When he was posted to Tubou on Lakeba, Dr Khan had the opportunity to exchange a few memorable words with the late Tui Nayau, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara about tomatoes. Dr Khan said despite not knowing Ratu Mara personally, he appreciated the comments he made. "In Lakeba, everyone was presenting Ratu Mara with food so I decided to take him tomatoes from my garden. When he saw the tomatoes he asked me if they were from Suva but I told him it was from my garden and he couldn't believe it. He called his brother and told him "if Doc can grow this, then we can grow it here too".

"We had a good laugh and I appreciated the things Ratu Mara said."

If there is one thing Dr Khan regrets the most, it is not being able to graduate in time to care for his mother.

His one wish is for his mother to be still alive when he started earning money as a doctor and pay back all she did for them.

His mother died when he was still in medical school but her teachings and spirit lived on in him. The values she taught him about love, sacrifice, hard work and most of all, respect and appreciation for the simple things in life, enabled him to understand the ways of the world.

"My mother died of kidney failure and it was one of the saddest moments in my life.

"I had wanted her to be alive so that I could look after her especially after all she had done for us when we were little.

"I don't like it when children do not look after their parents.

"It is something I really dislike.

"Life has become a whole lot easier for children nowadays. They seem to have everything and get away with a lot of things. In a way, I envy the young people of today because many of them do not have to struggle as we did in our time. I see a lot of children driving cars and living the life but it is important for them to realise and appreciate the fact that there is another group of people who do not have what they have." Dr Khan believes the key to success is to treat the other person as if if he is your brother or sister and respect older people as you would respect your parents.

The words of one of Lucky Dube's reggae hit come to mind "Be good to people on your way up cause you'll meet them on your way down."


Anonymous said...

Still remember the calls-Bean, Peanut?

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

I never ate too many hot peas and peanuts but I often bought gulab jamin and those curly sticky orange sweets from the sseet sellers. In the Suva market I usually went for the Fijian stalls - bila - those long sticks made from cassava, or vakalolo wrapped up in leaves.